Pharr District Wins 2016 Environmental Award
PHARR, TX Each year the Texas Department of Transportation's Environmental Affairs Division recognizes departmental projects that meet TxDOT's transportation goals while also protecting the environment by bestowing the Environmental Achievement Awards (EAA). To be eligible for an EAA, the exemplary project must both enhance the natural and human environment and arise from district initiative (rather than from a state mandate). The TxDOT Pharr District is proud to announce that the 2016 EAA was presented during the 2016 Transportation Short Course Conference in College Station, Texas, to the SH 68 Pelican Pole Project.
In 2011, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service informed the TxDOT Pharr District about a problem on State Highway 48 near the Bahia Grande cut. During winter cold fronts brown pelicans were trying to land or leave the water at low tide and were being hit and killed by vehicles. This issue was brought to TxDOT's attention again during the winter of 2013-2014, when the Rio Grande Valley was hit by numerous winter cold snaps.
The Pharr District used research conducted by Florida Department of Transportation on a similar problem. Their solution included attaching a series of vertical poles to both sides of the bridge. These poles have successfully directed marine birds over and away from traffic. Studies show that the poles have reduced deaths by close to 64 percent.
On Feb. 25, 2014, TxDOT met with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to discuss the situation and make recommendations to address this issue. TxDOT decided to install 8-foot-high poles along both sides of the two bridges along the Bahia Grande Channel. The poles were spaced approximately 30 feet apart on each side and staggered 15 feet apart.
Initial observations have documented brown pelicans along SH 48 flying over the recently installed poles. TxDOT is planning to make more observations on the effectiveness of these poles as they apply to brown pelicans and other bird species in the area.